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VENICE 2021 Out of Competition

Roberto Andò • Director of The Hidden Child

“For children, violence is an existential means of saying ‘I’m here’”

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- VENICE 2021: We chatted with the director about his latest film, which closed the Venice Film Festival

Roberto Andò  • Director of The Hidden Child
(© La Biennale di Venezia - Foto ASAC/Jacopo Salvi)

The Hidden Child [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Roberto Andò
film profile
]
by Roberto Andò is due to hit Italian cinemas on 4 November, having been chosen as the closing film for the 78th Venice International Film Festival. Silvio Orlando plays a piano teacher in Naples who unexpectedly finds Ciro (Giuseppe Pirozzi) in his apartment - the child and son of a Camorra member who lives on the top floor of his building - who is hiding to escape a vendetta.

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Cineuropa: The film was inspired by the book of the same name. How did you envisage this encounter between two people hailing from very different backgrounds would play out?
Roberto Andò: As far back as when I was writing the book, I began with the image of a child and an adult who were poles apart and whose paths crossed. In one of these uniquely arranged Neapolitan apartment blocks where different people all cohabit, a child on the run walks through the door of a reserved man who lives a solitary life, and realises he’s found a free zone where he can hide away. I was keen on developing the idea of how violent Italy’s southern cities are for kids, not only in such sensational, bloody circumstances, but also in situations where violence creeps in, where it hangs in the air and is eventually internalised and reflected in their behaviour. The story asks how this cycle of violence can be broken and depicts a double escape: that of the teacher who is uprooted from his home, and that of the child who is taken to safety. Silvio Orlando’s character feels like he’s almost living his life under siege; he’s an unintentional hero who offers the boy an alternative to crime.

Is this the only way to object to violence?
The protagonist doesn’t even have the law on his side. The only solution, in this instance, is to move him away from his family and create an alternative one for him. There are, doubtless, other solutions, but they take time; schools and the law sometimes aren’t always able to resolve situations because some of the latter turn out to be quite ambiguous. Consequently, the only way children can survive is to join in with crime. Because there’s no collective response in place, either. I think there’s a lot to do when it comes to violence in Italy. Crime is a practical and existential means of saying “I’m here”.

For a moment, the lead character seems to give in and sink to the same level as the Camorra members and their violent approach.
The teacher is basically living through an earthquake, of sorts, which leads him to think there’s only one possible solution, an unrealistic solution which doesn’t come to much; it serves to shed light on how the teacher can be crooked in real life too, and the way in which he contends with this solution. 

You paint Naples in an ambiguous, dark and enigmatic light.
Francesco Rosi introduced me to this wonderful city. Naples, like other places, often falls victim to cliché. I wanted to explore its reticence, its melancholy, its shadows. I wanted to explore it from the inside: Gabriele is a guest in this neighbourhood, he looks at it wryly from his window, from the stairs, from the peephole in his front door. The film speaks of violated beauty. That’s why the character played by Lino Musella is interesting, the teacher’s former student who’s ambivalent but devoted to his teacher and to music.

The story brings to mind John Cassavetes’ Gloria. Did you draw any inspiration from his film?
I absolutely loved that film, but it didn’t influence me directly; it’s part of the film culture baggage that we carry around inside of us, but which isn’t explicit. But you can definitely say that Gena Rowlands is to Gloria what Silvio Orlando is to my film!

How did you and screenwriter Franco Marcoaldi go about adapting the book’s text and turning it into a film?
This is the second time I’ve adapted one of my books, following on from Il trono vuoto which was the basis for Long Live Freedom [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Roberto Andò
film profile
]
. It’s a way for me to take the characters I’ve created on paper and lend them flesh and blood form. Franco Marcoaldi helped me to distance myself from the literary text and to find a freer viewpoint in terms of the novel’s final outcome. We also stripped the content back a bit; in the book there were more ups and downs, but we wanted the story to mostly unfold in the apartment. As happened with Long Live Freedom, the medium of film imposed a different scale, linked to the relationship which unfolds between the boy and the teacher, and to the many silences and pauses.

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(Translated from Italian)

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